Race against time
Riders and teams are in a constant battle against time at the highest levels of motorsport. And I don’t mean just the lap times: every race weekend they have just a few practice sessions to come up with the perfect setup for qualifying and the race. A setup that adapts their bike as well as possible to the nature of the track, helps it to get the best out of the tires on this type of asphalt, and gives their rider the feedback he needs to properly push the bike to its limits. This famous ‘setup’ we so often hear about is actually the combination of all the different parameters that can be adjusted on the bike. And this is where things starts to get complicated, because there are a lot of variables that can be adjusted or changed. And to make matters worse, almost all of them affect each other in some way. In this article I will explain how MotoGP teams deal with the setup.
From graph paper to spreadsheets
In the early days of motorcycle racing, bikes were a lot more basic and had only a few options to ‘tune’ the handling of the bike. Nevertheless, technicians quickly realized that they needed to keep track of some of the bike chassis parameters, such as spring rate, wheelbase, and ride height, just to name a few. With it, you could rebuild a complete bike and not accidentally change the way it handled. The resulting list became known as the setup sheet. It was still a rather short list, but it was enough to help them not to lose their way in tracking how the bike handled. With the lap times added to it later, usually alongside some remarks from the rider about the tires and the gearing, that sheet of paper was all you needed back in the old days.